Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Four of the best new hard-hitting crime novels

Saloni Gajjar is a staff writer at The A.V. Club. She tagged four new hard-hitting crime novels to get you through the end of summer, including:
The Family Plot (August 17, Atria) from Megan Collins delves even deeper into intergenerational trauma. Collins has an affinity for writing volatile family drama into her crime thrillers. Her first two books, Behind The Red Door and The Winter Sister, are emotionally turbulent and focus heavily on character development as opposed to the mystery itself, which helps in making her narrators compelling. The Family Plot doesn’t have the same poignancy as her previous books, but the novel works because of its unique setting and action. It takes place on a secluded island (think of last year’s The Guest List by Lucy Foley) where siblings Charlie, Tate, Andy, and Dahlia Lighthouse grew up with emotionally abusive parents devoted to teaching them about true crime from a young age. Their homeschooling involved learning about serial killer victims—each sibling is named after one—and performing “honorings” for them, their early lives further marred by the island’s own serial killer.

The story centers on 26-year-old Dahlia’s return to the family mansion after her father has died. She hopes her twin brother, Andy, who ran away at 16 and hasn’t been heard from since, might return, too. Instead, the family finds his body buried in their dad’s plot. Like the female protagonists of Behind The Red Door and The Winter Sister, Dahlia unravels one secret after another, slowly learning of her brother’s actions before his death. Unfortunately, the gritty, mysterious story is bogged down by Collins’ surprising repetitiveness. She spins her wheels in recounting Dahlia’s tight-knit bond with her brother, sticking her with a one-note personality that’s arrested in a time when her beloved twin was still alive. While Collins’ character-driven writing isn’t as gut-punching this time around, her exploration of the larger themes of toxic relationships, and why people stay in them, is enticing.
Read about the other entries on the list at The A.V. Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Plot.

--Marshal Zeringue